Shelton High student eyes Board of Aldermen seat
Securing final credits for graduation, submitting college applications, waiting for college acceptance letters and enjoying quality time with friends all make up a student’s senior year in high school. Add in running for Board of Aldermen and you have Matt McGee.
The incoming Shelton High School senior was tabbed by the local Democratic Town Committee to run for an aldermen seat in the third ward — no easy task with, at this moment, incumbents John Anglace, Jr., longtime aldermen president, and Cris Balamaci standing in the way.
But that has not frightened off the city’s youngest DTC member from taking the fight to the established candidates.
“The present aldermen have the experience but is it good experience?” asked McGee, admittedly a political novice. “I put more stock in pushing for the values of the city."
McGee has been most vocal so far on the city’s education system, which he states has been chronically underfunded for years, to the detriment of Shelton’s youth.
“I know what it is like to be in classes with 29 other kids, to be studying from books as old as me, to be paying burdensome fees just to play sports or enjoy other activities,” said McGee. “It is shameful. Shelton is not a poor community. It is middle class, and it is shameful to have the city’s last priority being what should be our number one investment — our young people.”
In a recent letter to the editor published in The Shelton Herald, McGee stated “Shamefully, this year (Mayor Mark Lauretti) proposed a 0 percent increase to the education budget, completely ignoring the public outcry from concerned citizens. In May, a city board reviewed the mayor’s budget and recommended a $930,000 increase for a school psychologist, new books, and technology. Sadly, the Board of Aldermen unanimously approved a budget which included the psychologist, but nothing more. Under this very lean budget, 19 teachers will be eliminated, class sizes will grow, textbooks and technology will age, and 'pay to play' will be imposed. All this while taxes increase from 22.15 to 22.44 mills.”
McGee said it was also shameful for a mill rate increase, with no real additional money going toward the school budget.
"We're talking about a city which not too long ago boasted about a general fund in excess of $12 million, where surpluses of, for example, $7.5 million in 2013 and $2.5 million in 2014, were the norm,” stated McGee in his letter. “This, in a city whose tax base increased 1.36 percent in 2018, due to new development which frequently occurs. In fact, I wish — as do many others — that the mayor gave as much consideration to our schools and education as he does to his developer friends.”
McGee says he is not a one-topic candidate, and his vision is one where not only is the school budget properly funded but also high-density development in suburban areas remains in check; solar panels are installed on all city buildings; a parking garage is built in downtown; and tax increases are held in check.
“I want to hold the line on taxes,” said McGee. “I do not want to see huge hikes in the mill rate. But it is hard to see the mill rate rise this year, from 22.15 to 22.44, with none of the increase going to education, which is already chronically underfunded.”
McGee said the city should take the lead on environmental consciousness with the installation of solar panels on city buildings. Construction of a downtown parking garage - long considered by local leaders — would help alleviate the parking crunch in that area of the city, added McGee.
Where would McGee find the funds to aid in making his vision a reality? McGee said, if elected, he would closely examine the city’s books, finding line items that are annually overfunded, such as public works, public safety and general accounts.
“I want to look at the budget and use money that is doing nothing and shift it to the school budget to give the children the best education possible,” said McGee. “I know it will not be as much as maybe the superintendent or the Board of Education may want. I know this is a negotiation, but I do think there needs to be a sympathetic alderman for the children.”
McGee said his interest in getting involved with politics came in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. He said he was 12 at the time and all he could think of was how someone could obtain a gun so easily.
"I became more active during the 2016 campaign of (Democratic presidential candidate) Bernie Sanders. “He opened my eyesto how big money controls politics, and some politicians were more interested in listening to special interests than the people.”
McGee said he took to social media to voice his support for Sanders, in the process becoming more confident in sharing his political views. During the most recent midterm election, McGee volunteered on the campaigns of Democrat Chris Mattei, who was unsuccessful in winning a primary for state attorney general against William Tong, and Democrat Monica Tujak Brill, who failed in her attempt to unseat incumbent state Sen. Kevin Kelly in the 21 District.
McGee then joined the Shelton DTC, becoming its youngest member. After he joined, he said party leaders asked if he would run for alderman, to which he initially declined. But after some reflection, McGee said his desire to improve his city overtook his apprehension.
His parents — Ann, a nurse at St. Joseph’s Nursing Home, and Tim, formerly of Fletcher Thompson — and friends are firmly behind his decision, said McGee.
“My friends have been supportive,” said McGee. “I have always been vocal about my beliefs and values, and they said they are there for me. That really means a lot.”
HIs first week after receiving the party’s backing was a whirlwind, said McGee, with creating his website, writing letters and increasing his social media presence taking up all his time. It was after a vacation that he returned to the realization of what he is undertaking, calling it a “mind trip.”
“This gives me a purpose,” said McGee. “I want to serve the people of the city of Shelton. I am tired of the schools being underfunded, especially in a year with a tax increase with none of that money going to what I feel is the most important city department. Enough was enough, so here I am running for Board of Aldermen.”